We do go on about downloadable designs, shopbots and 3D printing, and how it will change the design, manufacture and distribution of the things we buy. Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, author of The Long Tail, and surprisingly, small manufacturer of drone controls, writes about the state of the industry and the rebirth of the garage tinkerer.
He says: "Welcome to the next Industrial Revolution."
Anderson believes that the next ten years will bring dramatic change in the way we produce things.
Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they're ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks. The Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of both participation and participants in everything digital -- the long tail of bits.
Now the same is happening to manufacturing -- the long tail of things.
A key point is that these technologies will make startups in making things much like startups in the internet.
"Three guys with laptops" used to describe a Web startup. Now it describes a hardware company, too.
He speaks of it in terms of a global supply chain, sending off designs to China with a stroke of a few keys. But I suggest that this revolution will be local; that the availability of such tools will mean more flexibility in design, no inventory of stuff with everything printed to order, greater choice of design, reducing waste, eliminating the drive to IKEA, all manufactured at a 3D printing shop near you. Chris is looking at it from the view of the inventor and the designer; the bigger revolution will be that of the consumer, picking the stuff out online and hitting PRINT.
Read the whole article in Wired